By Carol Foss

 It was an ordinary day and the seagulls flapped above an ordinary sea in an ordinary sky. That is, ordinary for the non-observant. Admiral Nelson was still concerned. For the past few days these clouds seemed to have a strange glow to them , even if only he could see it. He was convinced the hues  had not been  light refraction , a setting  sun, or his own imagination.   Charting the reefs, investigating all the currents, examining all the old shipwrecks. Nothing out of the ordinary in the Bermuda Triangle either, and nothing out of the ordinary for the men of  Nelson's own submarine Seaview.
 That was the problem. Seaview was used to the unordinary, the special, the secret, the strange. For the past few months it was as though they were conducting a training mission for raw recruits.  Restored to his ordinary good humor, Nelson herded Lee back into his submarine and glanced upward at the sky. Damn! Nelson chided himself. Lee already thought his concerns about the recent clouds were all in his head. Maybe he was hallucinating. Nobody else thought the hues were abnormal for subtropical clouds.  While Crane grinned at the complilment, Nelson reflected that it  was probably   true. Crane  already had the reputation as the finest  sub captain in the world.  He also had an excellent balance of command and camaraderie which made all hands respect his manner if not his position of authority.  Sharkey wanted to object but quickly hustled Riley up the ladder  and  into the  Seaview. Within a minute the flying sub was launched.  Soon Nelson  would know if he was on to something or was just crazy like everybody thought.

 These sure looked like ordinary clouds to Lee. But true to his word, he made sure all the scanners were functioning. The sun had almost set now and the first star of the evening was just about visible. There was certainly no problem with the flying sub. The Chief had certainly  seen to that, Lee chuckled, but still glad he was alone on this job. The flying sub was such a wonderful craft. Lee savored the flight with elation.  Just he and FS 1. That didn't happen often.
 Just a few more miles  and another a fly through or two  and perhaps Nelson's obsession would be over. But as  soon as the   thought of Nelson occurred to him, he was uneasy. How many times had the old man been right? Well, nothing ventured, nothing gained, and Crane aimed the flying sub into the larger of the clouds again.
 So far, so  good. Just an ordinary cloud.
 What   was  that? Lee suddenly started to laugh. Riely must have left the radio tuned to a popular  disk-jockey, for the flying sub was flooded with music. Hmm. That's odd, he thought as he noticed the radio was tuned only to the Seaview's own direct contact frequency. Fiddling with the switches, he commented on it to Nelson.

 No doubt about it, for Riley was known for his love of loud music. He'd have to have a talk with him when he got back aboard for leaving personal property lying about, when he found it, that was.
 Suddenly the flying sub was flooded with rainbow lights. At least they looked like rainbows, all around him. A harmless trick of water vapor and the sunset, but still, he'd better report this.  Chip, the exec, had already both aimed and fired the magnetic pull-beam,  But it was to no avail. FS 1 was just too far away. The flying sub was twirling like a top, and soon smashed into the sea out of control. It remained to be seen if it was still in one piece. And if Crane was alive.

 The recovery process dragged on as Seaview seemed to plod to the area at flank speed. Within an hour the men saw the craft had not shattered into a pile of wreckage as feared.  Doctor Jamison had already arrived in the observation nose and sweated out the wait,  reviewing in his mind emergency procedures, for the captain had to have been badly hurt, if he was alive.
 The hatch was popped before the craft had been secured in the berthing area. Nelson was the first to descend into the flying sub, followed by Jamison.


 The area was searched again and again, all through the night with infared   and ultraviolet scanners, and all through the morning, to no avail. There was no sign of Crane. The Nelson Institute had been contacted and even Admiral Jiggs Stark of the Navy had been notified to be on the lookout for Crane and his kidnappers.
 The CIA and the FBI had been notified as well. As for the child, his fingerprints  and his DNA samples  were already being processed. It was  simply a matter of time.
 Nelson toyed with his breakfast in the observation nose, as did Angie and Katie, both just having arrived via a special flight to the nearby islands. Tired and grumpy from the long flight from California, both had had to bribe an island trawler to bring them to Seaview, a few hundred miles away. Although uninvited, both secretaries were welcomed by Morton as a way to cheer up the old man, indeed they could all use a little  cheering up. Even the CIA spies had no info on the kidnapped Captain.

 Sharkey had quickly ordered the grub from Cookie. Even so, the boy had the manners of a pig! He gobbled the food and used his fingers instead his fork. But he drank the milk ravenously, as if it were something most kids loved ! He spoke with his mouth full, and wiped his mouth with his soft white sickbay robe. Many of the crew, out of curiosity popped by to view this little spitfire with wonder. Where the hell was the kid from? Why, he even belched noisily without giving it a second thought.


 For the next hour, Nelson kept trying to glean information from the boy. Through psychological tactics he managed to bring the subject back to names and locations.  But it was no good. The boy truly seemed to have no memory of his name nor where he was from. Dismissing him, Nelson went back to his damaged scanner tapes,  useless things that they were,  in the hope of finding out what the hell had  happened to Lee  and where this boy came from.

 Well, at least the boy was trying to make himself useful, that was for sure, thought Chief Sharkey. Nobody, not even the admiral had asked him to yet either.  Already today, the kid had peeled a couple of bags of spuds, washed several dishes, and even beaten Kowalski at poker!
 It was the dames that were the problem. Always butting in everywhere,  checking on the kid's whereabouts, if he was clean, if he was comfortable. It was hard to hold one's tongue toward the admiral's guests. But the kid sure had no problem! None  whatsoever. In fact, Sharkey hadn't heard such language since boot camp! But it was no good. The kid sassing back to them made them even more concerned about the 'poor  misguided child'.
 It was difficult not to like the kid. But It just didn't make any sense. Who was he anyway? You'd think the FBI could have found something out by now. It had been nearly a week! But so far it was as if the kid never existed. No missing kid files, no juvenile delinquent files, nothing.
 It was hard to know what the admiral thought. There were all  sorts of theories going around.  Foreign midget, spy, amnesiac, alien from outer space,or Bermuda Triangle victim; the admiral kept mum about whatever he thought, and allowed the kid pretty much free reign over whatever he wanted to do, as long as he didn't try to run the ship all by himself.
 In fact, Sharkey mused, the admiral and the kid had begun to develop a real rapport together, and the 'old man' had even gotten into the habit of  checking in on the kid at bed time. Telling him all  sorts of  sea tales and the like. Just like somebody's grandpa or something.
 And even Sharkey had to admit, kid was a pretty quick study, and had shown a real instinct about just how submarines were supposed to work,  once some things were explained to him. Nelson actually encouraged him and let him read through  all the manuals and  explained a bunch of technical stuff whether the kid asked him to or not.  Even Morton had let him observe how some of the consoles in the control room worked. It wasn't long before Kowalski, Patterson, and Sharkey himself didn't have to explain much of anything anymore. This kid  was fast becoming a real pro. At just about everything aboard.  At least, Sharkey thought, he hoped it was just that the kid   had some kind of a natural  instinct. The kid couldn't really be a midget spy, or some kind of Martian,could he?
 Just as Patterson was securing a routine check of Corridor A-17, there was the sound of a great explosion.  Trying to run practically sideways toward the compartment as the ship's klaxton rang, he knew this could be real trouble . And he was right.
 The compartment was  already spewing steam and sparks, a sure sign of a possible crack in the hull. As Patterson and everyone else got there, they  knew it was bad.
  After  having helped two of the three men out of the flooding compartment, the kid was descending back down into the deluge to help another man, knocked out and trapped under a vast affair of twisted metal. It looked hopless and the torrent of water was close to  the point of no return.

 For what seemed like hours, the few minutes following sealing of the hatch were endured with a heavy silence.



 As Seaview limped toward port she was signaled by a surface craft flashing a distress signal. To the rescue, despite her own problems, Seaview made pretty good time, considering. She was not prepared, however, for the guns, knives, and explosives of her hijackers.
 The brigands were very well armed and Nelson acquiesced. There would be no bloodshed if he could help it, and he was rather curious as to just what was going on. This  could very well be a  connection to the Crane mystery and the boy's.
  Able to submerge, Seaview found herself in an undersea cavern. Once docking was complete, Nelson could see ,via the monitors ,that the complex was of moderate  size,and equipped  with the latest electronics. Soon he may have the answers to his questions.

   With the addition of a few pieces of special equipment, the sub was  running practically by herself. Clyde had never been on a sub  and was having a wonderful time.
 Morris was uneasy. There were only five men aboard and he knew if  anything went wrong, he'd be the one marked for shark meat. Boy ,was he hungry.

 It took a long time for Clyde to find the galley, and even longer to make a sandwich, for he kept munching on the makings. As he was just about to slice the sandwich, he heard a low moan. It seemed to echo  in the empty room. Quickly looking about and out into the corridor, he decided that valor   was not one of his stronger  points and almost sprinted toward the control and the security of  Morris.

 Clyde shouldn't have been assigned to this job. What a dunce, thought Morris, as he got back to the job of sitting in a chair and occasionally glancing at the flickering lights of the auto-control panel.

 It was a good sandwich and Morris greedily chomped down on the next bite.


 Twice now,  the attempts at escape had failed. Twice now, Nelson had been disciplined and was forced into the hard labor as his men before his designated time of departure.

 What he saw  wasn't encouraging. Hawthorn was pulling tacks out of his bare feet just outside the crew's  shower room, Baker was  trapped in the head, his rear end stuck to the commode, Dobson was nursing a broken ankle and covered with fire extinguisher foam, and Morris was nowhere to be seen.
 "Come back here you little monster!" screeched Morris' voice suddenly , in the high decibels of a voice altered by a  helium scuba tank , as he came into view, trying to chase a boy down a corridor, but  hindered by all the  tacks, glue, paint, stink bombs and other instruments of torment the child had been booby trapping  the men with lately. Almost gleefully, the boy threw another stink bomb at Morris, and was about to aim some more super glue at him from a pressurized squeeze gun.
 To add insult to injury, Morris had been dyed blue by his own shampoo, all the more visible against his yellow wet suit.
 It was difficult for Nelson not to laugh.  It took a while for the monitors to find the child, who finally reentered the control room and taunted Clyde, still stuck to the periscope,  by  placing ice cubes down his shirt collar and into the back of his pants.  Some of the remaining men entered the control room, and try as they might, nothing worked, as they tried dial after dial while trying to remain upright in the severe angle.  That comment got him a  smack across the cheek, but even Mr X could see Nelson was concerned.  

 It was  soon revealed that the fake grenade in addition to the ship's plight had threatened the hijackers with enough fear to  surrender. And the lad had quickly put the ship  right. His ploy of the mini-sub made Nelson chuckle, for he had mentioned the elusive tactic to the lad when relaying a sea story which the boy had made him retell!

 If the ladies had treated the boy as a poor babe before, now they pampered him like a conquering hero. Nelson couldn't tell  which the boy hated worse!If only Lee could have been here, he would have gotten quite a kick out of the whole affair.  But, of course, if  Lee had been here, the hijackers probably wouln't have gotten aboard in the first place.
 It was past midnight when Nelson had finally retired to his cabin for the night and was looking forward to some sleep. For as much as he was relieved  the boy was okay, Crane was still missing and he was no further along in his investigation. Sleep had been rather evasive for the past few days. He was just about to turn out the light, when there was a knock on the door.

.Patterson entered, hesitated, and almost turned to go out again.  Nelson pulled the cover up to his chin and pondered. So Nelson's own nagging thoughts hadn't been quite so dense after all. And if it were true? What then? But the child had no name..adoption of course...but the child had the mouth of a canal on the streets of course. This was no good. Then the answer came in a flash and Nelson knew what he must do, immediately.

 It was a beautiful morning, but while the admiral and the ladies breakfasted in the observation nose, the boy was having a grand time working on some loose gears in an access hatch. Riley  was really pleased to have someone else crawl in the tight space to do the job for him, and had been assured by the Chief that the kid had learned well and probably knew what he was doing.

 Sharkey couldn't help chuckling. The kid had guts all right, sure hope he didn't have to go to some home or something.

 Nelson had been at it for hours now, and it was nearing midnight. He'd checked and rechecked his calculations, the chemical  and mineral configurations of the Tiva Core, and even some old worn volumes of unexplained mysteries for a clue. Any clue as to what had caused the change in Crane and how to reverse it.   He was so deep in thought that he didn't hear the knock at the door, and was startled when he saw the boy ,  standing in front of him.

 Both laughed, and Nelson prayed the boy would drop the subject.  The boy grinned happily and Nelson watched as he exited the cabin, and was increasingly  torn in the matter of Lee Crane. And just what the devil was he going to do about it.  The next few days were far more difficult for the boy than Nelson realized. For as much as Nelson had admonished the crew to clam up and  treat the child the same, it was impossible. Even Nelson had to admit it was difficult not to see thier own Crane in everything the child did.
 Damnit, he even looked like Lee! Amazing that only Patterson had seen it. Nelson couldn't fathom why nobody else had, including himself. And these Tiva Core experiments weren't proving anything... nothing to do with the now vanished cloud. It was easier to put off the inevitable but even Nelson knew he was faced with a great decision, and soon.
   The silence in the room was almost explosive. Placing his chart on the plot table, Nelson paused, and turned to face the boy. It was Lee's eyes that bore into him, not the child's. It was now or never.
 "Yes." Nelson said quietly, waiting for some emotional outburst from the boy. None came. He simply frowned, turned, and departed. "Chip, take over. I'll be in my cabin."Nelson commanded, as he turned to follow the child and take him in tow to the destination of truth.
   Thompson knew what that ment.  He couldn't count how many times Seaview had been called on for all  sorts of government assignments, including helping out NASA.  "I'll  put the request through. Care to fill me in on the details?"

 By now, everyone aboard knew that the boy knew and was planning to get himself changed back into the Lee Crane they remembered. But it was  still hard to know quite how to treat him.  He  was still  cheerful and sometimes mischievous, but the more the admiral tried to warn him of the possible dangers, the more determined he was to take the risk. If they ever could find the damn cloud that is.
 Nelson was soon  ready to call it quits as NASA had found nothing after an extensive search. Still, Nelson was somewhat relieved, for  the risk could have been very real. He headed to the observation nose to tell him.
 But he needn't have bothered. Morton had already been informed by the General of a no show, and had told the boy. Lee's  dissapointment was etched in his face like granite, as he slowly climbed the spiral staircase up and away.


 It was a wild gas chase, as NASA called it, but they complied, and soon the old satellite was emitting information. Really quite remarkable for an object with hardly any more power  than a flashlight battery. But as it's solar wings were aimed toward the sun, it's power increased and soon it relayed everything it saw for the entire globe.
 As for the Tiva Core mine, it seemed to emit nothing  unusual. Was it just a crazy idea after all. This was just a hunch after all.
 Wait,   what was that? With increased magnification, there it was. A great cloud, just like the one Lee had flown into. Ordinary. But with all the electron particle characteristics the original scanner tapes had recorded. But now visible to an antiquated satellite. Bingo. But there was a problem. It was too damn high. It was just about suborbital.
 Nelson had called a conference of top scientists about his little problem, and had had no help. There was absolutely no way the flying sub  could survive even entering into   that altitude,  let alone be piloted by a child all by himself. Wouldn't even automatic guidance be blown, and the craft crumble  into smithereens, and turn into a fireball in re-entry?

 Nelson had to agree. Though the flying sub had been repaired, she  was not a spaceship, and the boy  would certainly have to agree that he couldn't do it alone. But what if  Nelson went along.? Good grief, he'd designed the flying sub! So  what if  he might be vaporized, maybe even changed, but oh how he wanted to risk it. For the boy's sake. For Lee's.

 But there was no choice, none at all. The president had gotten wind of the situation and made it quite clear that nobody was to try such a cockamamie stunt. Nelson was just too valuable to risk, and as for the boy,  well, he'd just have to get used to the idea of  being one.
 As Nelson acquiesced and ordered the course for home, he noticed the silence. What could he say, what could he do to ease everyone's gloom.
 Suddenly, alarm bells rang out and the sliding division doors  of the control room shut tight. What was going on?

  The flying sub   was behaving remarkably like a spacecraft according to the trackers, and after what  seemed  like an eternity, nearing its destination. Suddenly the control board went blank.  C'mon Lee, c'mon. Nelson prayed, as the flying sub entered the cloud. The wait was  endless.

 It was not a long   wait. In fact, descent and splash down looked better than textbook, and right in the same area as Seaview. Could the autocontrols really have worked? Seaview sped to the scene and retrieved the craft. There was  almost a de-j'vu feeling for the entire crew as it was berthed by a grapling hook and the admiral and doctor descended before it was secured.
  Some of the lights were blinking amid the charred remnants. Almost like last time.  Had it worked? Nelson  held his breath as he entered the scene. There, on the deck, was a man. Badly sunburnt, clothing reduced to ashes. He moaned lightly as he turned and tried to get up.

 The three men laughed  with relief as they helped Captain Crane up into his beloved Seaview.  As they were about to help him to sickbay, Angie and Katie ran toward him and tried to embrace him at the same time.


 After Crane had been released from sickbay to his  cabin, he and Nelson  spoke long into the evening.  All about Lee's difficult childhood as an abandoned infant, and his life on the streets.

 It was difficult to know what to say. It was evident that Lee had been hurt very badly by his second abandonment. How on earth  could anyone not be proud of Crane.  

 As Nelson later glanced through all the new information the Institute had sent, he came across the records of the SS Lee. It was far worse than he had even suspected. The abuse Lee had endured in the boys home of  Onri was part of a larger  state wide syndicate of  crime, including theft, gambling, prostitution, and racketering. No wonder he'd bailed out of it and the men of the SS  Lee had  helped him to stay out of it.
 What was amazing was that Lee had turned out to be a law abiding citizen at all. Chalk up some credit to Chief Crane, his wife, and the US Navy.
 At least Lee had had a  glimpse of family. At least he still had Seaview. At least he still had friends. At least he still had Harry.

 Uh-oh, something was on Sharkey's mind.  As  Sharkey visibly relaxed, even though embarrassed by Nelson's use of  his given  name, Nelson smiled to himself. Everything was going to be just fine now. Everything was already back to normal . Tomorrow  was going to be an ordinary day for Seaview. Again.